Gideon Sterling, Lyle Ashley Tate, Eidolon Security Detail Alpha and
Sandra Pierce, with mention of Flynn Archer and Miles Sutherland
Morning, Sunday 27th January, Mystery Island (Mata Api Kisiwa)
Gideon could hear the sounds of someone in the gym. He pulled the towel off from around his neck. Looked like someone had beaten him to it.
On entering through the open doorway, he was treated to a back view of Lyle Tate doing push ups. The man was wearing gi, cinched at the waist with a black belt. Now that was interesting. But a black belt in what? He was doing calisthenic exercises, push ups and rolls, which didn’t tell him much.
Gideon approached cautiously, wanting to watch but not put Lyle off. He was still hard-pushed to admit in his own mind that he was watching someone who had started life in a woman’s body. Lyle did not look female, simple as that, although his body might still bear the evidence. What the fuck, who was he to judge? Gideon didn’t actually care. He had dressed up in drag a few times himself, but he knew he made a lousy woman. He was just too masculine to fool anybody and besides, it didn’t make him a tranny. He watched Lyle warm up, then figured on joining him. However, he had no wish to spook him so he knocked on the door frame.
Lyle’s head was so full up with stuff that it took a while for the sound to register. He’d come in to do a physical warm up, some calisthenics, rather than trying to start with meditation.
It was good to move, to be in his body; the T-shots and his workouts were doing their job, building his muscle and adding weight to his frame. His short warm up routine had gone well, and finishing with jumps he tried to put in all the positive emotions he could muster to get himself airborne. Stretching felt good. His cardio-vascular system was getting the work it needed now too. Apparently his awareness needed some work though, given the way the knock on the door frame surprised him. He felt a smile spread across his face when he saw who was standing there. He dropped into a resting position.
“Could you stand some company?” Gideon threw the towel onto the floor out of the way.
“Sure. I was just thinking how it helps to have company if you’re after a serious workout.” He knew full well there was an innuendo there. He was quite intrigued to see if Sterling would take the bait.
“I’m curious. What discipline do you follow?”
Lyle smiled at the term ‘discipline’, he couldn’t help himself. “Aikido. It was Richard’s idea originally, he thought it would be good given my build back then. He was worried for me when I first moved to the States, thinking I would be a mugger’s delight.”
Oh you’d be that alright, Gideon thought, unable to stop the grin. Not necessarily for mugging though. “It’s a good path to follow no matter what build you are. I can’t say I follow a particular way myself. They teach us a mix of techniques, mostly how to take someone out hard, fast and quietly. The closest is Krav Maga, I guess, although that really has no rules at all.”
“Any means necessary, huh? I suppose it’s all about context and intention.” Gideon had disclosed his military background, so Lyle knew his training would have been very different to his own. Avoiding and neutralising an opponent as swiftly as possible was his aim if forced to fight; finishing an opponent with deadly efficiency would be Gideon’s.
“What put you into the military in the first place?”
Gideon paused. That was a leading question. “I was looking for something. I lost my parents before I turned 18 and I had no other family. The Marines substituted I guess.”
Lyle kept talking, despite rolling all over the place. His teachers had always stressed the importance of being proficient in ukemi and he enjoyed the floor work. “You don’t do things by halves, do you? Straight into the Marines at 18?”
“No, not straight away.” Gideon dropped to the floor and began push-ups. “I was in the regular Navy for a while first; three years.” He stopped speaking to concentrate on the exercises. Lyle continued nearby in companionable silence, the huffs of their breathing the only sounds in the room for a while. Gideon finished, rolled and got to his feet. “I applied for the Marines when I was 21,” he continued. “Served with them for six years. Don’t ask me why I tried for the SBS… Seemed like a good idea at the time? One of my officers thought I would be good for it.” He was busy doing cool-down exercises as he spoke, watching Lyle do similar moves out of the corner of his eye.
“Did you mean it when you said you’d teach me scuba? I’d love to be able to take a proper look at this reef of ours sometime.”
“Of course. I never offer anything unless I mean it. If I say I’m about to shoot you between the eyes, I will.” Gideon grinned again, disarmingly. “Actually, that’s not quite true. If that was what I was about to do, I wouldn’t waste my breath telling you.”
All very macho. Gideon wasn’t willing to face up to emotions though, unprepared to take risks with his heart, or other people’s. It was disappointing, because Lyle really fancied him.
“So, you fancy a one on one? Your skills against mine? I promise to be gentle…” one eyebrow rose questioningly while Gideon awaited a reply.
“Maybe another time. I’m ready for a shower and some breakfast now, then I’m due to help with the IT.”
“Damn, you disappoint me. I could have a word with the boss, you know? I hear he’s a bit of a hard nut, but he can be persuaded.”
“I heard Pierce was the boss, and I don’t think she takes persuading well.”
“Hmm, well, Ms Eidolon doesn’t have the security of this island to manage once she’s gone home. She better go home soon, for all our sakes.”
“Home is where the heart is… Maybe she fancies you.”
“I sincerely hope she doesn’t. I may be forced to do something she’d regret.” He looked around at the lack of equipment. No treadmills, weights or anything much. There were bars against the wall, but that was all. The building was due for an upgrade, like everything else on the island. “I’ll tell Harry he’ll be helping you today.”
“Thanks, he’ll need to bring me up to speed on some of the kit, but we’ll be operational soon enough.” As soon as possible, Lyle thought, if I can just get you out of the way long enough to leave some gear in your office.
Lyle was sure something bizarre was going on with this island. Gideon had recently ‘invited’ him to provide electronic security. This wasn’t anything to do with protecting him from the Mafia or the Bratva. It was like that was just an excuse to get him where Eidolon wanted him. Again he pondered whether they had actually been behind the whole Vale-Bratva thing. “I’m supposedly going to be well rewarded for my efforts, and I don’t like to hang around. I am curious what it’s all for though? I checked on the boxes that got unloaded yesterday. There’s enough wiring alone to wrap twice round this island… all for the five of us? I think not.”
Gideon’s response was to be expected. He simply chuckled.
Despite the frustration that caused, Lyle nevertheless enjoyed the warm, rich sound. He suspected Gideon’s singing voice would be that of a baritone. Their chat the other night had been pleasant, he could have listened to the man speak all night. “Don’t tell me…’need to know’…I’m part of the security team now though, so I do indeed need to know.” He thought of pushing harder, but his measure of the man told him he’d get more if he left spaces to be filled, dead air begging for sound to fill it. He resumed his exercises, flipping into a handstand and then walking it around the room.
“So, that’s the order of the day. I want Harry with Lyle. Take him through the equipment, bring him up to speed on what’s what, but let him organise the room to his liking, okay?”
“Make sure he knows his CCTV from his radar. Rag,” Gideon turned to the Swede. “I want you, Pritch and Bull well out of the way when we leave for Rapatoka. I have no intention of allowing the Ice Queen to order you along too. Two of us is two too many, especially if she wants us armed. So, radio silence for at least an hour, okay? Clarkey, you’re with me. Full desert gear.”
“Yes, boss.” Clarke looked anything but happy about the prospect. Full gear in this heat was going to be punishing.
“I know the heat doesn’t make it easy, but when have we ever gone into a potentially volatile situation without full protective gear on? I shouldn’t need to tell you that we never underestimate the natives. Don’t underestimate Pierce’s ability to cock up either. Pierce wants us armed, she gets us geared up as well. She needs to learn that. Got it?”
“Got it, boss.” Clarke responded. He was accompanied by a chorus of “yes, boss.”
“Good, let’s get to it then. Go get geared up, Ewan. I’ll meet you at the boat. Rest of you, keep an eye out for the doctor again. And don’t take any nonsense from that tricky little bastard, Flynn Archer. Last thing I need right now is anyone else making waves…”
SNAFU*, Gideon thought, watching Clarke as he got the boat ready. Pierce hadn’t shown yet, but then, that was why he’d woken up before dawn and had his guys do likewise in order to prepare. He wanted to get the drop on her. She was a right royal pain the arse and the less time he had to suffer her company the better. At least the inflatable was a good one, able to carry up to seven men and their gear, with a reasonably powerful engine and low fuel consumption.
They really needed a fuel dump fitting. So far they had brought all their fuel in jerrycans and Gideon really didn’t like carrying it on board the plane. They would need a shit load of it to run the site 24/7 too, even with wind turbines and solar panelling. They ought to be fuelled from a tanker visiting once a month, rather than bring it piecemeal by plane. It wasn’t an efficient method at all but Gideon hoped Eidolon had the answer because it would be next to impossible to get a ship anywhere near close enough.
“There we are, boss, all ready.” Ewan Clarke grinned and scratched his chin. “So what’s the protocol for today? Allow Ms Pierce to drop herself in it?”
Gideon smiled and nodded. “That’s pretty much it. Do what you’re told, but stop short of shooting the islanders, okay? I am not condoning violence, even if it happens to be Pierce doing the ordering. We need these people, even if she doesn’t realise it yet.”
“Did we have to get all tooled up though? I’m sweating like a pig in this gear.” He had stopped short of greasing his face with camo paint, but he was wearing the full desert combats and body armor, sporting the utility belt and full ammo clips. He wore his helmet with its visor up.
“Yes, we do. She wanted us armed. I never send anyone in to an armed situation without wearing the full gear. That would be suicide.”
“And another thing, Clarkey, you do the talking. I don’t want her to know its me under this. You got that? Not until we get there…” Clarkey nodded. “Otherwise there’s a chance she’ll tell me to stay behind, and I’m damned if I’m doing that. She said she wanted a couple of my men to accompany her and a couple she is going to have. Okay?”
Clarkey grinned. “Okay boss… O-oh, Uberbitch on the horizon, eleven o’clock.”
Gideon looked up, saw the coiffed blond head through the trees and quickly jammed his own helmet on his head and dropped the visor. He jumped into the boat and cradled his rifle to his chest. The barest flicker of something—was that surprise?—crossed Pierce’s face when her eyes alighted on the men waiting for her. Gideon slung his gun across his back and started the engine, gunning the throttle a little. Clarkey held the boat and handed Pierce onto the craft, helping her to a seat.
“Ready to go, ma’am?” he asked respectfully.
“Clarke, ma’am. You might want to hold on here and here?” he offered, as Gideon turned the boat toward open water. Pierce placed her hands where Clarke suggested and held on.
The wind as they sped through the water cooled them both down. Gideon guided the craft across the waves, pointing it toward the larger island and hoping he could find a settlement to stop at. He had no idea what waited for them here, no clue concerning how many islanders lived there who would not be happy to see them brandishing weapons and throwing their weight around. Well, they would see Pierce throwing her weight around. Gideon hoped he may be able to remain incognito. If not, well, he was there to see that nothing drastic happened. He could do without Pierce making a cock-up of relations with their neighbours.
“Has your commander told you why we are going there this morning?” Pierce suddenly broke the silence. Clarkey regarded her with a bored look.
“To quell the natives?” he suggested with a grin. Pierce paused, then allowed herself a small smile.
“Is that what he said?”
“No, ma’am, but it’s what it amounts to, isn’t it, ma’am? Warning them off nicking our stuff, aren’t we?”
“Yes, we are, but we ought to be subtle.” Subtle, Gideon thought? That woman wouldn’t know subtle if it rushed up and smacked her in the eye. “I want you and…”
“Bu..van…, ma’am.” Gideon replied gruffly, the helmet muffling his voice somewhat.
“You and…both of you…need to back me up and be prepared to use force if necessary.”
“Are we anticipating a problem, ma’am?” Clarke enquired.
“Did Sterling not brief you at all?” She sounded irritated.
“Oh yes, ma’am. He said we were to liaise with you, and you would tell us how you want this played out. He said we were to look to you for guidance.”
Gideon nearly gave the game away, but managed to get his laughter under control before it escaped.
Pierce looked a little mollified but thoughtful. “Then take my lead. I am warning the residents off coming over and taking our…equipment. We have no obligation to them, and they need to know, we own the island, and we will come down hard on trespassers.”
“Very good, ma’am.” Clarkey shouldered his G39 and sat facing the way they were going, eyes searching out the lie of the land. Gideon saw him glance over and nodded, not sure if the motion of the boat had disguised the movement, but he saw Clarkey nod and face front again.
Pierce was handed off the boat by Clarke again and stood, taking in the surroundings like a tourist. Bloody hell, she really did behave as if she owned the place.
They beached the craft on a stretch of white sand that lead up to a row of partially hidden bures in the tree line. To the right, up a pathway, was a low building Gideon took to be a meeting house of some kind. Evidence of the cyclone’s destructive wake was here also, broken trees and piles of debris on the beach. A few curious islanders began to come toward them, but the men saw the two armed visitors and pulled back, ushering womenfolk and children to safety.